CHICAGO (June 27, 2:15 p.m. EDT) — Bayer MaterialScience LLC had a ball at NPE 2006.
To be precise, they're having an Adidas Teamgeist-brand soccer ball, the one that's being used in this year's World Cup and one that uses polyurethane and other plastics made by Bayer.
The ball is covered with swooping shapes described as propellers and turbines, a departure from the pentagon and hexagon shapes that cover most traditional soccer balls.
The shapes “make the ball go a lot truer and faster,” said Robert Kumpf, vice president of future business for Pittsburgh-based Bayer. Both Bayer and its Bayer MaterialScience AG parent firm are units of global chemical giant Bayer AG of Leverkusen, Germany.
The ball was a source of early controversy, as goalkeepers believed its slick surface and unpredictability would lead to easy scoring chances. But a Bayer official pointed out that many of this year's matches have been low-scoring, in spite of being played with the new ball.
At NPE 2006, Bayer also showcased the zaZen, a concept car produced by design firm Rinspeed Inc. of Zumikon, Switzerland. The vehicle features a contoured single-section roof dome made of PC. The dome is illuminated by a third brake to create a holographic effect.
The zaZen's PC dome design “would be difficult, if not impossible, to do in glass,” Kumpf said.
The zaZen model on display at NPE also featured seats made of PC and filled with a PU-based gel. The vehicle has a top speed of almost 300 mph and can accelerate from zero to 100 mph in less than 5 seconds.
Elsewhere at Bayer, officials are expecting sales growth of 6-10 percent this year, both in North America and worldwide, for its Makrolon-brand PC.
The firm is seeing strong growth in the automotive and food-storage container markets, said North American PC business head Rainer Schorr. The optical-media market also has shown surprising durability, Schorr added.
“When we saw the iPod, we thought that was the end of the [CD] industry,” he said. “But it hasn't been. People who use iPods say they're buying more CDs than ever.”
In North America, Bayer employs 4,000 and operates 12 plants with total capacity of almost 5 billion pounds. Its major plastic products here include polycarbonate, polyurethane and thermoplastic polyurethane. In mid-2004, Bayer separated its ABS unit and other specialty chemical businesses into a separate company, Lanxess AG.
Bayer's global sales grew 24 percent in 2005 to 10.7 billion euros ($12.9 billion) while pretax profit mushroomed 110 percent to 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion). The firm also got off to a good start in 2006, with first quarter sales and pretax profit each up 11 percent and sales volume in pounds up 8 percent.
“In this global market, we need to be the low-cost producer in order to be competitive,” said Bayer MaterialScience AG management board member Ian Paterson.
The firm spent $400 million on R&D globally in 2005, employing 1,700 people on innovation projects. Products less than 5 years old make up 20 percent of annual sales for Bayer MaterialScience, and its R&D staff averages one patent filing per work day.
Bayer added 55 million pounds of PC capacity in mid-2005 through streamlining in Baytown, Texas. Moving forward, more debottleneckings can be used to add capacity in North America, said BMS North America President and chief executive officer Greg Babe. The firm also is investing $1.8 billion in Caojing, China, to add capacity for PC, TPU and PU feed stocks.
Other new products BMS spotlighted at NPE were:
* Baytron-brand conductive polymer for E/E applications.
* Baytube-brand multiwall carbon nanotubes for electrical and thermal conductivity and tensile strength. Sample quantities of the material are in production. They can be blended with plastics in uses such as hockey sticks, where the firm said they can increase flexibility and puck speed.
* Makrofol-brand PC film, which can provide color stability in medical equipment during sterilization.
* A new medical grade of Texin polyether-based TPU, offering moderate stiffness and, according to Bayer, superior toughness.
* A new biocompatible grade of Makrolon-brand PC for medical uses.
* Fantasia-brand color special effects for food containers, audio systems, furniture, CDs and other products.
* Artwalk-brand PU floor coatings for visual, functional and design applications.